Keep your visceral fat in check with exercise, diet

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With the start of spring this month, many of us will be looking to shed some pounds so that we look good when we go to the beach.

There are more important reasons for being concerned about our weight, and one of the most important issues from a health standpoint would be the amount of visceral fat we are carrying.

Visceral fat is also called belly fat. It's the apple-shaped person versus the pear-shaped person, but it's not always so easily seen either. Lean people have been known to have too much visceral fat.

Visceral fat lies deep within the abdominal cavity and it surrounds key organs like the liver, the pancreas and the kidneys. Visceral fat has been associated with a number of chronic diseases including high blood pressure, diabetes and fatty liver disease.

There are two good ways to deal with visceral fats and two quick and dirty ways to measure it. Dealing with it means to eat more soluble fiber and to exercise more.

Studies have found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber intake per day, visceral fat is reduced by 5.7 percent over five years. That amount of soluble fiber increase can be achieved by eating two additional small apples per day or an additional cup of peas each day or a half cup of pinto beans each day. That seems pretty doable, doesn't it?

If you're eating whole food, plant-based, then you are getting plenty of soluble fiber and as the years go by, you should be reducing your visceral fat levels more and more.

If you're not eating whole food, plant-based, then perhaps make the effort to replace one of your sweet treats with two small apples each day instead. Or make beans your protein of choice on most days. Your health will thank you.

In addition to reducing current visceral fat levels, it's important to avoid accumulating more visceral fat, and the way to do that is through exercise. That is the second way of dealing with visceral fat.

Vigorous exercise for 30 minutes two to three times a week has been found to result in a 7.4 percent decrease in visceral fat accumulation over a five-year period.

I measure my visceral fat using an Omron scale (pictured). While the most accurate measurements are with an MRI, very few of us want to do that.

The Omron scale passes a minimal electric current through our body, measuring water content and is able to calculate that into visceral fat levels as well as into Body Mass Index (BMI), percentage of total fat and percentage of muscular tissue in the body.

An even more simple but less accurate way to measure visceral fat is to use a tape measure, comparing the circumference of the waist to the hips.

To sum up, eating soluble fiber and doing vigorous exercises are the two best ways for eliminating and stopping the accumulation of visceral fat.

J Lanning Smith is a local freelance writer focused on the whole food, plant-based way of eating.

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